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The New England Patriots are entering the first week of the 2022 regular season with considerable uncertainty, especially on the offensive side of the ball. The unit, after all, has had an inconsistent first training camp after losing long-time coordinator Josh McDaniels earlier during the offseason.
In terms of media attention, the offensive play-caller arrangement is probably the biggest question mark heading into the Week 1 contest against the Miami Dolphins. Offensive line coach Matt Patricia appears to be the frontrunner to earn a role that he jointly shared with quarterbacks coach Joe Judge during the summer and into preseason.
Patricia has some experience as a play-caller, but it stems entirely from his time as the Patriots’ defensive coordinator between 2012 and 2017. He has not worked on offense since 2005, let alone called plays on that side of the ball.
The Patriots do not appear to be overly concerned about that aspect of running their offensive operation, though.
“Play-calling hasn’t been a problem,” head coach Bill Belichick said last month.
Of course, there are plenty of other potential areas of concern with the season opener a mere four days away. The three biggest, from this point of view, might just be the following:
- Offensive line play
- Linebacker depth
- Lack of a true CB1
The Patriots’ offensive line has seen considerable turnover since last season. Gone are starting guards Ted Karras and Shaq Mason, with rookie Cole Strange and Michael Onwenu replacing them on center David Andrews’ left and right shoulder, respectively.
Andrews, meanwhile, is the only starter still in the same spot he played in 2021: starting tackles Isaiah Wynn and Trent Brown changed sides this offseason, with Wynn now on the right and Brown on the left.
As for the linebacker position, it has been completely rebuilt as well. The days of Dont’a Hightower, Kyle Van Noy and Jamie Collins are behind us, with Ja’Whaun Bentley, Raekwon McMillan, Mack Wilson and Jahlani Tavai as the new top four; only Bentley played a significant role for the New England defense last year.
The unit showed promise in preseason, but the regular season is a different beast altogether.
Finally, the cornerback situation. With J.C. Jackson gone, the Patriots lack a true CB1 to go up against a Dolphins wide receiver corps led by the likes of Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle.
Will the absence of a No. 1 option at cornerback come back to haunt New England versus Hill, Waddle and company? Or will the group now led by Jalen Mills and Jonathan Jones be able to stand its ground?
In order to get a feel for how fans are feeling about those questions and the state of the team in general, let’s turn to SB Nation’s Reacts survey. This week is obviously all about the upcoming season opener.
To participate, please fill out the following survey. Results will be published later this week: